Equestrian Heddle Pulley - Côte d'Ivoire

This exceedingly rare Attye heddle pulley depicts a horse and rider, the man clothed in a loincloth and the horse with the bobbin between its front ankles. The features of the horse are rudimentary, showing tube-like legs, bushy tail, and a round head with small ears, simple nose holes and inset white glass beads for eyes. The rider, with large head and small arms carved in relief, his skin a reddish brown, sits casually astride his mount. Above his high forehead is a simple coiffure, parted down the middle, with an iron suspension loop attached at the crown of the head. Soft facial features are set with glass bead eyes. Attached as part of the bobbin fastening is a coin dated to 1924.

Heddle pulleys are used in strip weaving, a process that uses very small looms to produce long, narrow strips of cloth that are later sewn together to create a larger textile, such as a blanket. The pulley is located at the very top of the loom and guides the weaver’s thread.

This well-known pulley was previously in the collection of the renowned New York heddle pulley collector Harold Rome. Rome (1908–1993) was an American composer, lyricist, and writer for musical theater. A visit to the 1931 French Colonial Exposition in the Champs de Mars in Paris initiated his interest in collecting. Rome assembled one of the best pulley collections in the world and sold a large part of it to the New York tribal art dealer Ben Heller in 1979.

Early 20th century
Wood, iron, metal, coin, fabric, glass beads
9” h
- Harold and Florence Rome, New York, acquired in New York in 1967
- Ben Heller, New York, acquired from the above
- Sotheby’s, New York, The Ben Heller Collection, December 1, 1983, lot 88
- Faith-Dorian and Martin Wright Collection, New York

Published in African Art in American Collections, Survey 1989, Warren M. Robbins & Nancy Ingram Nooter, Washington, DC/London, Smithsonian Institution Press, 1989, p. 186, cat. no. 378
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